BATHURST Regional Council had no choice but to move quickly to find a temporary solution to the rural bridge north of the city that was washed away in a storm earlier this month.
Howards Bridge, built in the late 1930s, is about 40 kilometres from the city in an area that is hardly heavily trafficked, so its loss would not have been immediately apparent to most of Bathurst’s residents.
But the stories this newspaper has been reporting on the concerns of those who rely on the bridge (which crosses the Winburndale Rivulet) would have quickly made the seriousness of the situation apparent.
There were the Bathurst residents who made a mercy dash out to the rivulet and carried hay bales, one by one, across the water to the other side to a struggling family.
And then there was farmer Warwick Gordon, who told the Advocate he had made the decision to stay home from work in Bathurst rather than negotiate the detour into the city.
That detour, he said, was not only rough on his vehicle, it took him almost an hour-and-a-half to get in to the city.
“We’re going to give them [council] until this time next week,” he said last week. “If they can’t put a causeway in then we’ll move to Bathurst.”
Council has been accused of not understanding the severity of the situation, but it is also hamstrung by rules and regulations the rest of us never have to wrestle our way through.
Council said last week that it was speaking with relevant government departments and organisations, including Fisheries and the Office of Water, to determine what it could do before the construction of a new bridge, but “a clear answer” might take weeks.
Well, we seem to have a clear answer now.
Council put out a statement late on Wednesday that a replacement single lane bridge is on order and it hopes to have the bridge in place by late February or early March.
That’s good news for everyone who lives out around the old Howards Bridge. And it’s good news for council, which will feel some of the pressure lifted now a plan is in place.
Residents forced to endure a long detour will feel better knowing there’s an end in sight – even if it is up to six weeks away.
A replacement bridge on the way is better than no replacement bridge on the way. Let’s just hope the worst of the summer storms are over by the time this temporary structure goes in.